The History Book Club discussion

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life
This topic is about John Quincy Adams
25 views
PRESIDENTIAL SERIES > 7. JOHN QUINCY ADAMS~~CHAPTER SEVEN (159 - 188) (2/20/12 - 2/26/12)~No Spoilers, please

Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Bryan Craig This is the Week Seven thread for the next Presidential Series selection (John Quincy Adams).

The week's reading assignment is:

Week Seven - February 20th - February 26th -> SEVEN p. 159 - 188

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other spotlighted books.

We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library. Bryan's edition is ISBN: 0679404449 (hardcover)

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to begin reading this selection and/or to post.

Bryan Craig will be your moderator for this selection as he is our lead for all Presidential selections. We hope you enjoy Week Seven of this discussion.

Welcome,

~Bryan

John Quincy Adams A Public Life, a Private Life by Paul C. Nagel by Paul C. Nagel


Bryan Craig Chapter Overview and Summary

Chapter Seven: Professor


JQA is off to Harvard to teach rhetoric and oratory. His family endowed the chair and his cousin told Harvard that JQA must be the first recipient or the family will pull the money. He set up an arrangement to teach part-time and wanted to raise the standard in his classes. Also, JQA re-started his law practice and he was still a U.S. Senator, dealing with issues such as the Tripoli pirate treaty, the Aaron Burr plot, and abolishing the slave trade. When he returned to D.C. for the Senate session in 1807, the Chesapeake affair occurred that fired up the country about neutral rights against Britain. He tended to vote more Republican, saying he was looking after the best interest of the country, not regionally. He was now on a collision course against his Federalist colleagues.

He lived in Quincy, talking daily with his father, and commuted to Cambridge. JQA supported Jefferson's trade embargo, which he saw was a better alternative to war. However, it affected New England trade. To make matters worse, he went to Republican meetings. Federalist began to attack him privately and publicly. His family and friends were confused. JQA responded, again, that he was voting for the better interest of the country. In the end, the Federalists blocked his nomination and kicked him out of the Senate. Republicans liked JQA and he began to hope for another diplomatic post, and the Russian post was open. He needed the money and one way to do it was to argue a couple cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, while he waited for the Russian job to finalize.

On the personal side, JQA was shaken when Louisa gave birth to a stillborn child. However, Francis Adams was born on August 17, 1807. He kept active on the social scene even though he was being politically criticized.


Bryan Craig So, the family endows a chair and JQA gets it thanks to family connections. He has no qualms, but in the past if father interferes, he gets upset.

Why do you think he didn't get upset over this?


message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
He has an inflated opinion of himself and feels he deserves it (smile)


Bryan Craig Bentley wrote: "He has an inflated opinion of himself and feels he deserves it (smile)"

Short, but sweet, Bentley.

Also, I think he was willing to turn a blind eye to something he really wanted.


Bryan Craig FYI-Here is the Tripoli Treaty (1806):
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_centu...

It is part of the First Barbary War or Tripolitan War:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Ba...


message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 20, 2012 10:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
I was half kidding. But I like your rationale as well. Standards and nepotism are bad unless it is something you want badly; then all bets are off.


Bryan Craig I agree, Bentley. Do you think he would have felt bad after the fact, maybe feeling he lost self-discipline or compromised principle?


message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Since he appears to have a constant companion of depression and to me sometimes seems bipolar or manic; it is hard to tell but I imagine that he experiences peaks and valleys and when in the valley - he probably felt and knew that he compromised some of his professed ideals or what he stated were his principles. So often mental vagaries were overlooked in those days as eccentricities or just bad humor.

I am not a psychologist so I am simply guessing here.


Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments I agree with the above generally.

Pg 159 the capter bigins with "restore his mental health"..

His Harvard experience is the Golden Rule - he who has the gold....etc. but I think that maybe Brighton saw JQA's need and it was time maybe that JQA saw that he could not not be the son of John Adams -and he had to make money - and he didn't want common lawyering work

But if he did not feel more important than others he sure asked for more -make a 7 year deal with Harvard and ask for special terms and when the Pres says no organize the board to get his way................ He has become the influence user - father, Senate, relative's bequest to Harvard etc.

But he seems to have accoomplished enough to get his stuff done.


message 11: by Bryan (last edited Feb 21, 2012 06:32AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryan Craig Bentley wrote: "Since he appears to have a constant companion of depression and to me sometimes seems bipolar or manic; it is hard to tell but I imagine that he experiences peaks and valleys and when in the valley..."

Vince wrote: "His Harvard experience is the Golden Rule - he who has the gold....etc. but I think that maybe Brighton saw JQA's need and it was time maybe that JQA saw that he could not not be the son of John Adams -and he had to make money - and he didn't want common lawyering work..."


Thanks Bentley and Vince. I do wonder if he contemplated his actions and felt a little regret, or he just excused them away in these instances. You can understand it, though. As Vince says, he saw a good job and had to make some money, so he went and did it.


message 12: by Bryan (last edited Feb 21, 2012 06:35AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryan Craig Vince wrote: "But if he did not feel more important than others he sure asked for more -make a 7 year deal with Harvard and ask for special terms and when the Pres says no organize the board to get his way................ He has become the influence user - father, Senate, relative's bequest to Harvard etc...."

Now this is interesting. His actions with Harvard suggest entitlement.

Later on in the chapter he keeps saying he is voting Republican for the country, but he is knocking on the President's door for a job...another example of entitlement here??


Bryan Craig Here is a quote from JQA on voting for Republican measures: "The gratification of my own vanity or ambition by a display of influence would be a despicable motive of which I am utterly unconscious." (p. 163) He wants to be "a mighty agent in the service of my country." (ibid)


Bryan Craig Chesapeake-Leopold Affair:

As time went on, the tension between Britain and the United States grew. Some British deserters reportedly joined the ranks of the U.S.S. Chesapeake. In February of 1807, it was reported that three men aboard the H.M.S Melampus escaped and joined the American ship. The British Council asked for the return of the men, but the request was denied. An investigation was conducted by Madison and in the end, the Secretary of the Navy reported that the three men in question were American citizens. Both John Strahan (or Stachan) and William Ware were from Maryland, while Daniel Martin was a resident of Massachusetts. According to the report, these three men had been impressed earlier; therefore, they were not considered deserters. In the mean time, the British Vice Admiral, George Cranfield, issued an order to captains and commanders of all British ships along the American coast. The order stated that many British subjects had deserted and were now on board the U.S.S. Chesapeake. Therefore, if any ships should meet the Chesapeake, the captains should be shown the order and the ship should be searched for British deserters.

On board the Chesapeake, Captain James Barron was preparing to sail to the Mediterranean. On June 22, 1807, the Chesapeake and the H.M.S. Leopard crossed paths. The Chesapeake halted along side the Leopard in order to allow the British messenger on board. The messenger recited the proclamation given to him by his superiors. Captain Barron refused to allow the British to search his ship. The captain made it clear that there were no such men aboard the ship. Shortly after, the Leopard fired upon the Chesapeake in retaliation. Approximately 20 minutes later, the American ship surrendered to the British demands. On board the Chesapeake, the British looked at the muster and took the three men in question off the ship, in addition to John Wilson (aka, Jenkin Ratford), who was a proven deserter. In the end, in addition to the four men taken off the ship, three seamen were killed, eight were seriously injured and ten more sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

American sovereignty was clearly violated by the British; they used force, fired upon the American flag and destroyed American life and property. In his seventh annual message, Jefferson said, "These aggravations necessarily lead to the policy either of never admitting an armed vessel into our harbors, or of maintaining in every harbor such an armed force as may constrain obedience to the laws, and protect the lives and property of our citizens, against their armed guests." There was no question that the American public was outraged by the actions of Britain, and Jefferson and his cabinet now needed to find a reasonable solution.

As the news spread regarding the incident, so did anti-British sentiment. Jefferson stated that, "This country has never been in such a state of excitement since the Battle of Lexington." In order to immediately address the issue, the Virginia militia was ordered to capture the British ship. After the ship was captured, as a sign of good will, Jefferson allowed the British sailors to return to Britain and called for his cabinet in order to discuss the issue.

However, Jefferson did not convene Congress. There were several reasons for this. The first was that he wanted tempers to cool and to wait for a response and apology from the British government. Secondly, Jefferson wanted to provide ample time for the military to prepare in case of a possible armed conflict, and give the ships outside of American waters time to return. Finally, he did not wish to reconvene Congress because he feared it would automatically be interpreted as a call to war. Jefferson later ordered the British ships to leave American waters, saying, "If they come ashore, they must be captured, or destroyed if they cannot be captured, because we mean to enforce the proclamation rigorously..."
(Source: http://www.monticello.org/site/resear...)

More:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chesapea...
http://www.norfolkhistorical.org/high...


message 15: by Bryan (last edited Feb 22, 2012 08:20AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryan Craig Embargo of 1807:

The neutrality of the United States was tested during the Napoleonic Wars. Both Britain and France imposed trade restrictions in order to weaken each others' economies. This also had the effect of disrupting American trade and testing the United States' neutrality. As time went on, harassment by the British of American ships increased. This included impressment and seizures of American men and goods. After the Chesapeake Affair, Thomas Jefferson was faced with a decision to make regarding the situation at hand. In the end, he chose an economic option: the Embargo Act of 1807.
(Source: http://www.monticello.org/site/resear...)

More:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embargo_...
http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/data...


Bryan Craig Were you surprised to see he voted for the Jeffersonian Republicans? He even went to party caucuses! Being from New England, the hotbed of Federalist Party, I was taken aback.

I can understand with the embargo, vote for that rather than go to war. Thinking more about it, it takes courage to do this.


message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 22, 2012 01:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Could there have been any underlying gain in doing this or anything self serving which may not have been obvious at first glance. After many years of watching these maneuverings you get a bit satiated with what is true courage and what is really all about self interests. If it was courage, he never really received his due. In fact, his father did not either when you think about it; both of them did not have personalities which seemed to warm the public to them.


Rodney | 83 comments I was all ready to write a post on the failures of political parties, but in reading the responses here I have opened up a new line of thinking. I'm starting to look at some of the actions in this chapter not as nepotism or even possibly hypocrisy, but simply as opportunism. JQA has become a true politician who understands one way to stay a politician is to make yourself stand apart. That is not to imply on the larger issues he was not following his conscience.

As these chapters go on, it is more and more apparent that JQA must have been a difficult person to be close to. The respect I have for his wife grows with each word read.


message 19: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Ahh, my skepticism had some legs. I wondered at motivation too though I tend to agree the large issues would take guts.

Kudos to his wife. And I think his mother if she contended with some of this while Adams the father was off.


Bryan Craig Ah, love, right? Thanks Bentley and Rodney. I like your observation about standing apart. Very nice. If you are in a bed full of Federalists with no Republican in sight, it makes some sense to start voting Jeffersonian. Voting for the embargo would definitely get people's attention.

Clearly his family were perplexed. He got really angry at his mother. He writes her letter had been a "a test for my firmness, for my prudence, and for my filial reverence. May I be assisted to stand the test without impairing either of these duties." (p. 178)

Would you agree his voting habits added another log to the fire of this difficult relationship?


message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Yes I am sure that his mother especially wanted to shake him and shake him hard.


Bryan Craig Bentley wrote: "Yes I am sure that his mother especially wanted to shake him and shake him hard."

Indeed, lol. And his father saying, yeah you are not fit for politics.


message 23: by Bryan (last edited Feb 24, 2012 06:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryan Craig It interesting that JQA read about Queen Anne time and states, "I could not but remark how much these times here resemble those...the future is likely to resemble them in their worst features." (p. 181)

So, I had to ask what was in her reign that marked closely to his??

My guess is the rise of two parties-Tories and Whigs-and the bitterness between the two. Anyone else have some insight?

Info:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne,_Qu...
http://www.royal.gov.uk/historyofthem...


message 24: by Bryan (last edited Feb 24, 2012 06:33AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryan Craig Supreme Court Cases:

Fletcher v. Peck:
In 1795, the Georgia state legislature passed a land grant awarding territory to four companies. The following year, however, the legislature voided the law and declared all rights and claims under it to be invalid. In 1800, John Peck acquired land that was part of the original legislative grant. He then sold the land to Robert Fletcher three years later, claiming that past sales of the land had been legitimate. Fletcher argued that since the original sale of the land had been declared invalid, Peck had no legal right to sell the land and thus committed a breach of contract.

Question
Could the contract between Fletcher and Peck be invalidated by an act of the Georgia legislature?

Conclusion
Decision: 5 votes for Peck, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Art 1, Section 10, Clause 1

In a unanimous opinion, the Court held that since the estate had been legally "passed into the hands of a purchaser for a valuable consideration," the Georgia legislature could not take away the land or invalidate the contract. Noting that the Constitution did not permit bills of attainder or ex post facto laws, the Court held that laws annulling contracts or grants made by previous legislative acts were constitutionally impermissible.
(Source: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1...)

More:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fletcher...

Hope Insurance v Boardman:

http://supreme.justia.com/cases/feder...


message 25: by FrankH (new)

FrankH | 76 comments Another possible angle on JQA voting with the Jeffersonians is the newness of the democracy and that regardless of party alliances and regional affiliations a mind like Adam's would always lean foremost to the needs of nation-building. If I've gotten this right, the Federalists wanted to reverse or weaken the embargo due to regional mercantile interests centered principally in the Northeast, but, as a tenet of the party line, shouldn't they also have wanted the strongest possible stance against England on the issues of impressment and seizures, despite the inherent pro-British sentiment? However Adams came to side with the political enemies of his party, it doesn't seem to me like much of a stretch because all the Federalists as proponents of a strong nationalist philosophy really should have been there with him. Did JQA at that time foresee this federalist schism as untenable and precursor to the death of the party?


Bryan Craig Great questions, Frank. Let me dig around some. What I can say that JQA seemed to vote for the embargo as a better alternative to war, which many did vote that way.

Nation building was what JQA said he did when he voted Jeffersonian and we could take his reasons for face value.


message 27: by Bryan (last edited Mar 05, 2012 08:37AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryan Craig FrankH wrote: "Another possible angle on JQA voting with the Jeffersonians is the newness of the democracy and that regardless of party alliances and regional affiliations a mind like Adam's would always lean for..."

I think the first part of the question is interesting. I think the inherint pro-British sentiment was declining among the NE. The Federalist wanted to lift the embargo, but England had the Orders of Council which also stopped American shipping and allowed impressment. Anywhere you look at it, shipping suffered due to the Napoleonic wars. So, at this moment, I don't know how strong British sentiment was among Federalists. They might not wanted war, but they were upset that the British (and the French) clamped down on trade.

You make a great point in the last part of your post. I can buy JQA seeing the decline of his party. The Federalists were declining on the national scene.


back to top